On some days, every two to three minutes a new patient will arrive at the main hospital in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. Weak and malnourished, the children are often carried in by their desperate parents.
Doctors and nurses who haven’t received their official salaries for months keep going to mange the demand for treatment, with children sometimes laying six to a bed.
600 children a day
Families are struggling to find clean water and enough food, which means that children quickly develop debilitating diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.
They are victims of a deadly cholera outbreak that is sweeping through Sanaa and across Yemen, fueled by a collapsing health system, unpaid sanitation workers, damage to the water systems from airstrikes and heavy rains.
Approximately 600 children a day are being diagnosed with suspected cholera last month, with cases expected to spike as we head toward another rainy season in July.
More than a third of the cases so far have been in under-15s, and the staggeringly high levels of acute malnutrition among children have rendered them more vulnerable to infection.
A full blown epidemic
It’s now Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, when families should be gathering together in the evenings to celebrate and break the fast. Instead, too many Yemeni families are ravaged by hunger, poverty and illness as a result of more than two years of conflict.
The crisis is the biggest humanitarian emergency in the world, with more people in need of life-saving help than even in Syria. Millions of children are out of school, malnourished and homeless because of the conflict.
This cholera outbreak, which threatens to become a full blown epidemic, is only the latest blow to the Yemeni people.
Our response on the ground
Our teams are on the ground responding the outbreak – we’re running diarrhoea treatment centres, health clinics and sanitation programmes.
We’re also helping to provide communities with the basic tools and information they need to protect themselves from the outbreak, including chlorine tabs and hygiene promotion.
We will do whatever we can to reach the most vulnerable children, but ultimately their suffering is a direct result of the conflict.
If fighting stopped, commercial imports were allowed in without restrictions and humanitarian agencies were given unfettered access, this cholera outbreak may never have happened in the first place.
Read more about how Save The Children is helping
This must end soon
That is why we are calling on the UK government to use its leading role on the UN Security Council to push forward the peace process, ease restrictions on shipping to Hodeida port and re-open Sanaa Airport to commercial traffic.
As the UN’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said last week, “the crisis in Yemen is not coming, it is here today – on our watch.”